Talk about a company that has had to battle an image problem this summer on Main Street!
Before reaching a settlement with CBS over the price to show the network's programs on the cable network, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) infuriated television watchers across the United States because of its association with Time Warner Cable (UNKNOWN:TWC.DL). For weeks, CBS and Time Warner Cable were locked in a high-stakes game of "chicken," as neither side seemed willing to budge.
Time Warner alleged that CBS is charging exorbitant prices for its programs to be shown on Time Warner Cable. Viewers from coast to coast were not able to see their favorite CBS programs on the cable network – no David Letterman, no Monday-night lineup of hit comedies, no U.S. Open tennis matches, no preseason NFL football games.
The problem, which affected New York, Los Angeles, and other cities, grew so serious that the Los Angeles City Council felt a need to get involved. On Aug. 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that a committee of the city council sent a motion to its members petitioning them to review the subject at the next meeting on Tuesday. They want the Federal Communications Commission to resolve the thorny Time Warner Cable-CBS affair.
Predictably, the two sides reached an agreement on the eve of the 2013 NFL season.
It was just in time, too. And if you had gone on social media websites and read people's bitter comments, you can see that people were angry at Time Warner, for its cable operation's actions. If you judged only by what you read on Facebook and Twitter, you'd have little hope for Time Warner's prospects. But stock market analysts know to ignore the hype and focus on the more essential factors when judging this media behemoth.
Time Warner pleased analysts in the second quarter, as its revenue of $7.4 billion topped estimates (the consensus was roughly $7.1 billion), and earnings per share were also encouraging to Wall Street.
Time Warner, like a winning sports team, showed that it had a deep bench of assets. The robust three-month period was powered by strong performances in motion pictures and cable-television advertising.
Wall Street also supported Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes' decision to spin off the company's perennially poorly producing publishing group. Time's magazine division had failed to show significant growth prospects for many years. This entity had not fit in with Bewkes' vision of powerful performing units across the board at Time Warner.
Time Warner's management reflected the company's prospects when it upped its 2013 growth guidance to the level of the mid-teens, with the shift coinciding neatly with the forthcoming fee-renewal cycle. Time Warner had said that "it feels well positioned ahead of the cycle, reiterating double-digit domestic fee growth guidance at Turner in 2013-16," Barclays Capital pointed out in a recent report to investors. "We maintain price target at $68, reflecting optimism in affiliate renewals, advertising revenue, and overall network strength."
Time Warner is on a nice roll, having surpassed the consensus earnings per share projections in the past two quarters. Time Warner gave the Street more reason for optimism when it reiterated its expectation heading into the affiliate-fee renegotiations, noting that a recently confirmed deal with a major distributor was greeted on good terms. The company had declared that these talks would give way to double-digit affiliate fee growth levels during the next several years. "As a result, TWX raised FY2013 EPS growth expectations to mid-teens compared to low-double digit growth announced after 1Q," Barclays pointed out.
Time Warner stockholders can rest easier, still, by reflecting on the strong performance of the company's recent movies. The films unit closed at a positive 13% year over year in the second quarter, sparked by Man of Steel and The Great Gatsby. Even if ticket sales slow, remember that Time Warner can look forward to a Hobbit sequel. Time Warner has flourished with such movie franchises as The Matrix and Harry Potter -- clearly this is a company that knows the power of having a continuous movie cash cow.
The lesson here is that Wall Street stockpickers and securities analysts don't worry as much about a company's image on Main Street.
Fool contributor Jon Friedman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.